by: Drew Felter
Throughout the week-long canoeing expedition that began our Adirondack Semester experience, we were often warned about the last day when we would have to paddle through Dead Creek. Each time we asked Will Madison, one of our two assistant directors, how Dead Creek received its intimidating name, he would chuckle and reply, “You’ll see.” We quickly learned that Dead Creek was truly a force to be reckoned with.
The early morning began with a silent paddle and two short portages around two separate dams. Before reaching Dead Creek, we would have to canoe through a few rapids, the highest level being class 2. Prior to canoeing through the first and most challenging rapid, we received thorough instructions from our assistant directors, Kim Covill and Will Madison, on how to paddle through the rapids. All canoes managed to stay afloat in the rapids except for one. Garrett Sopko and Ali Kostick were the first victims of the day to fall into the water. After hitting a rock, they made the deadly mistake of grabbing the gunnels of their canoe, thereby causing it to flip.
After our adventure through the rapids, our next challenge of navigating upstream through Dead Creek began. Dead Creek was winding, narrow, and included several obstacles thanks to the local beavers. We quickly managed to cross over our first beaver dam without any casualties. Many winding turns later, we reached a small log that obstructed our path. One by one, each paddler managed to cross over the log by using different strategies. Emma Brandt stepped out onto the log and promptly slipped into the water, grabbing onto the canoe in an attempt to stay dry. After flailing about in the water, Emma stood up and said, “Oh wait, I can stand!”
Dead Creek was surrounded by high grass, which blocked our vision and only allowed us to see what was directly ahead and behind us. Occasionally our canoe group would have to cross very slim sections of the creek in a single-file line. The shrubs on either side would get in the way of our paddling and dropped a few spiders in our boats. However, with Will’s navigational skills and strategic guessing, we made it to the bridge where our 2-mile portage to Massawepie began.
For our portages, the canoes were carried by one paddle member at a time, with pairs switching when one became tired. Once we reached Massawepie Lake, we paddled across at a faster pace than usual due to everyone’s excitement to finally see Arcadia, our new home for the semester. Upon our arrival we were immediately greeted by Cathy Shrady, Director of the Adirondack Semester, and two St. Lawrence students who participated in the ADK Semester the previous year.
Within our first hours at Arcadia, we had our last casualty of the day. During a brief tour, we learned how to use the barge to move equipment across the small cove behind our yurt camp. On our way back from practicing how to use the barge, Oscar Wilkerson grabbed the barge’s rope in an attempt to help dock it, but he was lifted up and pushed into the lake. As the group joined in laughter over Oscar’s misfortune, we could tell that this new home was going to be a good one, and occasionally a wet one.